How to Chase Your Dreams
Updated: Apr 8, 2022
The full details on the cost it took to be able to live life on our own terms.
We hope the following is motivation to go after your goals. No matter how big or crazy your dream may seem. Remember, it's only crazy until it happens. You won't achieve everything you want in life without taking risks. Success does not come without sacrifice. This is our story of using Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball to become debt-free and how we used minimalism to stay that way.
Comfort of the American Dream
This is a story you have heard before. The pursuit of not happiness, but the American Dream. The idea that he who dies with the most toys wins. When you are young it's action figures or dolls. When you get a bit older it becomes clothes and cars. The pursuit of more things is not even always bad or needless. How many of us have racked up debt chasing a college degree? Something that in America has a high value attached to it. And cars are not bad. You need a reliable car to get to the job that you worked hard for and got into debt for. And you need clothes to wear to your job. Time out with your friends is important because humans were not created to be alone. But then at the end of the day, you get back into your car and drive back to your apartment or house. All of these items are essential. But when does "essential" become extra?
The 9 to 5 or 8 to 7 can drop you into a daze. A trance that leaves you in a sense of comfort. Asleep at the wheel. And if you don't wake up and shake out of it you will be ready to retire. At least mentally and physically. But living with mounds of debt and surviving paycheck to paycheck will not get you to retirement in actuality. Buying things we can't actually afford just kicks the can down the road. Even declaring bankruptcy will not forgive you of your student debts. Eventually, we have to deal with the debt we have accumulated to purchase items that we couldn't actually afford. Eventually, you have to pay the piper.
I, Will, worked in corporate America for 13 years. I tried it all to climb the corporate ladder. Spent almost every night for a year studying and taking exams to get my Master's degree. I took and passed tests for technical certifications and internationally recognized designations. I was praised for my leadership abilities yet never got the opportunity to formally lead. Heck, I never got one promotion in 13 years. All of this extra work and going the extra mile did not lead to tangible results. I may have been considered a "job hopper." I mostly stayed at a place of employment for a few years and then left when it seemed I wasn't getting anywhere and there were obvious problems within the organization. I would get questions about loyalty knowing that so many of my peers were constantly terminated out of the blue. Guess that loyalty didn't extend both ways. So while I would get more money in each position; I would not get more responsibility. Or fulfillment. I witnessed such hopeless comfort. My co-workers stuck around to ride off into the sunset of retirement; not wanting to rock the boat or do anything to jeopardize their predictable income stream.
Katy, my wife, had a job lined up right out of college. She felt kind of unprepared and was definitely nervous. She had a similar job before, during college, but it was at a smaller church. She had no idea her first paid job would be at a much bigger church. But she worked hard putting in the 50, 60, even 70 hours a week to show them that they made the right choice hiring her. And she didn't stop after the "90 day grace period." She found herself doing that often. For 7 years. She sat back, she was in a comfortable spot. She had good health insurance, paid for by her company. She stayed at a safe pace and never pushed herself outside of her comfort zone. She never moved around or took another opportunity. She could easily retire there. The thought of that stability would be a dream come true for most people.
We Wanted More
I couldn't accept the idea of just being happy to make a paycheck and sticking with a company until you retire or more realistically get laid off. So I tried "side hustles." First was Labor Gains. True, I never got promoted at work. But by job-hopping, I went on a lot of interviews. And thankfully, never hopped backward in pay. I frequently updated my resume and even got my LinkedIn profile to All-Star status. All of that was good enough to get my foot in the door at Fortune 500 companies; just not good enough to take that foot and climb the ladder. When it came to getting a new job, I just applied to every job I could find until I landed one. Those things can't be easily taught to others; though the effort was made. The Labor Gains series was released on YouTube and LinkedIn. I attended career fairs and posted some blogs and would like to believe that I did help some people with their resumes and job interviews. The touching notes and messages I received confirmed this. But ultimately Labor Gains failed. Quickly, I learned that what allowed me to land interviews and lockdown jobs was not transferable. I did not have success because of the xs and os; the success came because of my inner desire to succeed. My relentlessness.
Then I tried to pursue a passion. Since I was little I loved professional wrestling. If there was one topic I felt like an expert in; it was that. I am often told that I have a voice for the modern-day radio; podcasts. The skills learned from Labor Gains did not die. I started Wrestling Stable which produced YouTube shows and blogs in the form of wrestling show previews and results. Then podcasts were added as well. I added knowledge of TikTok and Instagram which helped grow the brand. But soon I realized that I liked wrestling, but I didn't love it. And you have to love a product or idea to create a business around it. So this company also folded.
Even though Katy was working a ridiculous amount of hours; she felt okay with that because it was for something bigger than her. It was for a greater good. But Katy's contribution to the organization didn't leave her fully fulfilled, she had other passions. Since she was little, Katy had always loved photography. Growing up, her mom handed her a camera to take pictures for her parent's business and Katy has had one in her hands ever since. She started KG Photography as a side business. This didn't seem like a disconnect from her day job; just an extension. She mostly focused on child and family photography and would take photos at a wedding if someone asked her nicely. Katy has always viewed life through the eyes of a camera lens and her photography business always brought her joy. But she never pushed herself enough for it to become her full-time job.
We knew we wanted more; we just didn't know exactly what. But it is not enough to just believe; you have to prepare. Many people just want a safe, secure, job. They may not say it with their words but they prove it with their actions. We are different. We wanted to really push ourselves. We wanted a challenge.
However, being in heaps of debt wasn't going to get us anywhere. It keeps you in a cage and does not allow you to go after anything. We couldn't even use that much of our salaries to help others or to give generously. Romans 13:8 says "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another." Being in debt doesn't just hurt us, it caps our abilities to help other people hurting.
The solution was easy in principle. But extremely hard to do. We had to get out of debt. There are definitely people with Mount Everest-sized debt; ours was $80,000 combined. It would be great to wave a magic wand and just make it disappear but that was not going to happen. It could get overwhelming trying to pay off school, car, and credit card debt all at once. But the best way to climb a mountain is one step at a time.
To get going we had to get weird. We stopped the big-spending but still had some big expenses. The biggest expense of living in South Florida is definitely the rent. But you have to get the nicest place you can afford right? Wrong. You have to live in your own place once you become an adult right? Also wrong. Dave Ramsey says, "You have to live like no one else; so that you can later live and give like no one else." So we did what no one else would want to do. We downsized.
That's not normal. But that's the point. We had to begin the process of getting out of debt. We weren't even dating at the time, but we both began the 3-year process of living well below our means to eventually break the bondage of debt. Katy rented out a room at her cousin's house and slept in a twin-sized bed. I bounced from room to room at different AirBnbs. We had to live like most Americans won't so that we could get what most Americans don't have.
We started off delaying what we want now for what we REALLY want later. We adjusted to fully focusing on our basic needs and nothing else. Because that would fall into want and excess. We all think we need a new car for safety or our own place for security, but those are actually wants. We NEED food to eat, clothes to wear, and a way to get from point a to point b. Our culture says that we will always be in debt. You HAVE to buy a house as soon as you have enough for a down payment. The norm is to be in your 40s and 50s with "manageable debt." But for us, living below our means became our new norm. Way below our means! We won't lie to you. It was not so easy at first. We worked hard and felt like we deserved nice things. We deserved to see the fruits of our labor. But it was no one else's fault but our own that we got ourselves into this mess. And no one was going to help us get out of it. We ignored some well-wishing family members and some friends that were comfortable with the chains of debt. We stopped spending money on our credit cards completely. We lived in rooms instead of entire apartments, didn't eat out too often, did not upgrade our cars, and suppressed our desires to regularly travel. We didn't do it perfectly. We did take a short trip to the American Southwest for the Hotair Balloon Fiesta, but we did the best that we could. We brushed up on Dave Ramsey's debt snowball system and agreed that our debt was not a math problem, it was a behavior problem. We executed these steps:
Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate. Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest. Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt. Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
This allowed us to use the momentum and excitement of paying off our smaller debts to pay off our medium and then biggest debts. We went from $80,000 in debt down to zero. We could have done it mathematically and looked at interest rates, but we found it easier to get some small wins and then go from there. And now we're debt-free!
Paying the Price
This success did not come without sacrifice. But victory rarely does. Besides our one 4 day getaway where we didn't even pay hotel fees because we stayed with friends, we didn't spend money on big-ticket items. We missed weddings, didn't go to concerts or events, and rarely ate out. We had to replace a transmission, power steering, tires, brakes, and more to keep our vehicles up and running. We were humbled by the ability to spend more thanks to credit cards but not being able to because of a lack of cash to pay off any additional bills. I can tell you I had some really interesting stays and roommates in the past few years.
Back on Solid Ground
After getting debt-free, we were now back on our feet. We could now come up for air knowing that we didn't owe anyone any money. But once you conquer a giant, new challenges immediately appear. Not to harm you, but to see what you learned during your trials. We were faced with a new big-ticket item - a wedding. The average cost of a wedding in America is $30,000. Our goal was to remain frugal and spend less than half of that.
We picked a date out of the air and attempted to get married then. But not wanting to get back into debt for any reason we pushed out that date. We pushed it back 7 months to do it when we could afford it and not when we wanted it. We had all of this credit card space now, but we waited until we could completely cash flow the wedding. And we did. On top of that, we were blessed to get additional cash and gift cards which helped with future savings and spending. We didn't rely on it, but we were grateful to have received it.
How We Changed
After eliminating our financial debts and cash flowing our wedding, we were starting our new life together with no chains. No restrictions. The snowball was still rolling, and we kept living below our means and saving up money for something. We just didn't know what. 2020 taught us that we are not promised tomorrow. You need to chase after your dreams. For some people, that dream is a house or a new car. For us, that dream is to travel and see as much of this world as possible. So we knew we wanted to travel sooner rather than later. We didn't go full Dave Ramsey and refuse to ever use credit cards again. Instead, we used them wisely. We got a credit card that offers points that we can use towards traveling and we pay off the balance each month so that we don't pay interest or fall back into debt. I'm not a financial advisor, but the American Express Platinum card is what my research and gut told me was the best card for us. It has no foreign transaction fees and a lot of other perks. We also got the Charles Schwab card. It required a hard pull of my credit, so I made sure to sign up after getting everything situated with the Amex. The great thing about this card is that since it is an investment company and has no physical banking branches, it reimburses you at the end of the month for any atm fees you are charged. We kind of gradually fell into being minimalists over the past few years. We stored most of our stuff in our car trunks. We lived in small living spaces so we didn't have room for a lot of things. That made us okay with the idea of traveling the world and living out of backpacks. And we had fun searching for what would be valuable enough to bring with us and what could actually fit into our backpacks. Minimalism is not about not having enough things, it's about only having the right things. We learned a lot about getting out of Debt from Dave Ramsey and a lot about minimalism from The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. We devoured travel content from solo and couple travel vloggers on YouTube. With all of the experience I had in AirBnbs, I learned the ropes about how to not spend a fortune on Airbnbs while also not putting myself into too sketchy of a situation.
By December 2020, we had all of the physical items we need to travel the world. We were debt-free. We had saved up enough for quite a long journey. There was just one item to take care of. It took a big leap of faith but we could not travel the world and truly experience everything fully while working full-time jobs. So we both resigned from ours.
This is it. This is for real. We have no apartment leases and no car payments. We no longer have full-time jobs. But, we do have our one-way international tickets purchased. There is no going back now. We are going to document everything along the way at www.witytravels.com and @witytravels on every social media platform (except Facebook where we are @witytravelstheworld. We will have a weekly vlog on YouTube and a Podcast that you can find on your favorite podcast provider.
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We hope this documentary is motivation to go after your goals. No matter how big or crazy your dream may seem. Remember, it's only crazy until it happens. You won't achieve everything you want in life without taking risks. Success does not come without sacrifice. This is our story of using Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball to become debt-free and how we used minimalism to stay that way. We go into full detail on the cost it took to be able to live life on our terms.
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